Professor KalchikEnglish 1053 October 2016 The Burden of Freedom of Choice Left or right? That is one of the essential questions of everyday life. Which ever you choose in that moment can change your life in an instant, positively or negatively.
These are the moments that define us. Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” tells the story of a conflicted man who has come to a literal fork in the road, and struggles with the choice he made in the end. Figuratively though, Frost explains that life is a series of trial and error moments, and we must accept the consequences of whatever decision or choice we made, as well as learn from our mistakes and continue to better ourselves with each challenge we face. Life is a journey that can come with regret, but we can never slow down, stop, or get a do-over. Many see this poem as positive and uplifting, because at face value, choosing the “road less traveled by” shows courage and leadership. But with a closer reading, it’s is obvious to see, that is not the true message Frost intended.
With that said, it is probably one of the most misunderstood poems ever written due to Frost’s hidden dual meanings. In a literal sense this poem is about a “normal guy” on a walk, who needs to decide where to go in order to continue on his journey. But what becomes really interesting is the process of deciphering which path to take.
To begin, the last, most famous lines of the poem are “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” At first glance, it is easy to interpret this as a path that benefited the protagonist’s life, because he chose the “harder” more “challenging” one that most wouldn’t take. With closer analysis, we see that this is a contradictory idea. Frost mentions one path as being “…bent in the undergrowth;”, and one as “…having perhaps the better claim, / Because it was grassy and wanted wear; (137)”. This initially tells us that he chose one path over the other because it seemed like not many have walked on it.
But after a few moments of travel he realizes someone had “…worn them really about the same,”, and that it was not really a well thought out decision that truly mattered in his outcome. This is where most people miss this feeling of regret for the less traveled path he chose..
Frost is very strategic when presenting his dual meanings for this poem. Even as the protagonist is conflicted in the poem, we find ourselves with the same inner confusion as we decide which path we would take, and decipher why he might choose one way. The speaker described this mental struggle he went through as a “sigh” because he has regret over picking the path he did. The road not many people take could’ve been too challenging, and that is what made all the difference in his opposition to that path. Or, he could’ve chosen the road because it was easier, with less resistance, less obstacles, and wishes he took the harder route. Maybe that is what made all the difference for his future. Even as Frost describes one road as have undergrowth and the other as grassy, it is evident that he had misinterpreted one of the roads ahead.
He thought he knew what was to come of the road after only his first glance, but later realized he was wrong, and that both roads were quite similar. It goes to show that in life, things aren’t always going to turn out how you expect them too, and you should always keep an open mind and not judge too quickly. This beginning section of the poem where he chooses the path also represents how humans can tend to overanalyze a situation when a choice is at hand.
To help explain this poem in a more detailed sense, Frost uses a few literary elements to convey his message. For example, the road obviously represents so much more than just a road. In a literal sense, as described in the first and second stanza’s, it could be seen as taking a certain path because it looks nicer, or because there is less brush and trees. But on a deeper note, the brush and undergrowth can represent a greater risk of struggle to get to the end of a journey, it may be more tiring or harder, while taking the clean-cut, nicer one is easier. The road is used as a metaphor and as an extended metaphor for life’s ups and downs and constant changes. A road could last forever, or be cut short, but over all it’s a symbol that not all things will remain the same.
Another interesting feature of this poem is the rhyme scheme and flow, in correlation with the content. Usually these are looked at separately, but there is a great significance when both are compared. First off, there are four stanzas, each five lines with a rhyme scheme of ABAAB. This makes the flow of the poem seamless and predictable, which gives the readers only one thing to focus on: the meaning and understanding of it. As stated earlier, this poem is widely misunderstood, so it’s interesting that even with the simple, perfectly told flow of the story that doesn’t try to trick the readers, most are still ignorantly thrown off by the end. In itself this makes Frost’s poem very complex and detailed, to the point of which many wouldn’t comprehend. With this complexity, there are symbols to be uncovered with his word choice.
First off, the word “undergrowth (137)” gives a mental picture of confusion, uncertainty and unknown – the essence of the entire poem. Also, instead of simply stating that one of the roads was less worn, he specifies that it was not “trodden (137)“. Frost also gives a more vivid description of the road by describing how it “diverged (137)“, rather than saying that it split or separated. Through the choice of articulate diction, this element helps Frost better describe the images of the poem.
He clearly uses these strong images to help portray the setting of the poem. The woods that surround the roads are described as “a yellow wood”. The main path was “bent in the undergrowth (137)”, while the path that the speaker chose was still “grassy (137)“ from not being traveled on.
These subtle yet important aspects of Frost’s poem really make it enjoyable and interesting to read.